2013 Rachel Flores

Rachel Flores describes her life as a rollercoaster that would never end. She was born with a cataract in her left pupil and had surgery at four months old, leaving her blind in that eye with prominent scarring. While she was taunted through elementary school and middle school because of her physical appearance, she also had to contend with substance abuse, gang violence and poverty at home.

At a young age, Rachel had no escape from loss and despair. Even though Rachel pleaded with her mom to stop using drugs, her mother’s addiction led to her contracting AIDS from an infected needle. She died when Rachel was only nine years old. Just two years later, Rachel lost her 2-year-old nephew and her grandmother almost simultaneously. With most of her family gone, she and her sister, who became her legal guardian, left Milwaukee and moved to Minnesota to start a new life.

Even though she lost so many close to her, Rachel is determined to stay strong. She believes her family pushed her to “do good.” Her guiding force was to be positive and do things that would make her family proud. And she’s proud of herself, too. At Roosevelt High School, she is a star athlete, volunteers in the community and works 20 hours a week at Buffalo Wild Wings while taking a full school schedule. She also regularly babysits her sister’s four children, preparing meals and keeping the house running smoothly.

Because of all the time she spent in hospitals as a child, because of her illnesses and for those she loved, she knows medicine will play a role in her future. She saw how health care providers support patients and their families and plans to be a neonatologist. Rachel will attend Minnesota State University-Mankato in the fall. “My life is going good and it’s going to be better.”